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Early life family disadvantages and major depression in adulthood

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carole Kaplan


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Background There is evidence that exposure to social and family disadvantages in childhood are a risk factor for adult depression. Aims To explore the effects of multiple adversity in early childhood on adult depression, and the relative effects of the different adversities. Method This study utilises data from the Newcastle Thousand Family Study. Information on childhood disadvantages was collected when the participants were 5 years old, and information on mental health was gathered when they were 33 years old. Mental health data were scrutinised blind to the evidence of early disadvantage, and best-estimate diagnoses of major depressive disorder were made according to DSM-III-R criteria. Results Multiple family disadvantages in childhood substantially increase the risk of suffering a major depressive disorder in adulthood. Such disadvantages include family or marital relationship instability. a combination of poor mothering and poor physical care, and a combination of dependence on social welfare and overcrowding For females major depression was linked in particular to the quality of parenting in early life. Conclusions Social and family (especially multiple family) disadvantages during childhood predispose individuals to an increased risk of major depression in adulthood.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sadowski H, Ugarte B, Kolvin I, Kaplan C, Barnes J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Psychiatry

Year: 1999

Volume: 174

Issue: 2

Pages: 112-120

Print publication date: 01/02/1999

ISSN (print): 0007-1250

ISSN (electronic): 1472-1465

Publisher: Royal College of Psychiatrists


DOI: 10.1192/bjp.174.2.112


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